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Ankara looks beyond Raqqa offensive for fate of northern Syria

The Turkish government is worried about how the Democratic Union Party will transform northern Syria once the Islamic State is defeated in Raqqa.
People sit in the back of a truck as they celebrate what they said was the liberation of villages from Islamist rebels near the city of Ras al-Ain in the province of Hasakah, after capturing it from Islamist rebels November 6, 2013. Redur Xelil, spokesman for the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said Kurdish militias had seized the city of Ras al-Ain and all its surrounding villages. Syrian Kurdish fighters have captured more territory from Islamist rebels in northeastern Syria

Prior to the May 16 meeting between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington, Turkey had sought for a year to pressure Washington to make a final decision on whether it would cooperate with Turkey in northern Syria or whether it would opt to ally with the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Of course, Turkey had hoped the United States would prefer to cooperate with its NATO ally rather than the YPG — a sub-state actor and the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The United States, however, adamantly maintained over the past year that it did not have to make such a choice, and Ankara could not devise a new road map that would persuade the United States to ally with Turkey east of the Euphrates. Now, the United States feels it can preserve its relations with the YPG — even elevating such relations with the upcoming Raqqa offensive — while keeping Ankara at bay. This may not be as easy as Washington seems to think.

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